A budding dispute between the Boch family and the town of Edgartown over whether the Bochs may land a helicopter at their down-harbor estate now appears to be headed to superior court.
The town zoning board of appeals last week upheld the decision of the town building inspector to issue a cease and desist to Barbara Boch. Helicopter landings on private property are not allowed under Edgartown zoning bylaws.
Edgartown has won two court cases against private homeowners who wanted to build helo landing pads on Chappaquiddick: one in the 1970s and another one a few years ago. But at the zoning board hearing last week, Mrs. Boch’s Boston attorney Kathleen Genova pointed out that state law does allow helicopter landings on private property with proper notice to the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission. Ms. Genova said the law, which was not in effect at the time of the first court case between the town and the late Walter Wood, and was not introduced during the more recent case with William O’Connell, trumps town zoning bylaws.
If an appeal is filed as expected, it will be up to a superior court judge to decide.
But the question of what’s legal and what makes common sense are sometimes two different things.
Even if a court decides that it is legal for Mrs. Boch to land a helicopter at her harborfront home, is that really the right outcome for the Vineyard?
The board of appeals correctly noted last week that the precedent issue looms large here; if the door is opened allowing homeowners to land helicopters on private properties, the result could be a nightmare of noise pollution and safety issues for the town.
And with the Katama Airfield just a short distance down the road from their estate, it’s hard for the Bochs to make a strong argument that a helicopter landing pad is a necessity. The airfield manager confirmed last week that helicopter landings are allowed at the grass airstrip. Why can’t the Bochs land their helicopter there, the board wondered aloud?
Ernie Boch Jr., Mrs. Boch’s son who now runs the well-known family car dealership business outside of Boston, has given generously to the Island in a number of ways. And we would hope that the Bochs could apply the same generosity of spirit to this issue.
Being a good neighbor is often not a matter of what you give, but what you are willing to sacrifice.
It would be a shame to bring a judge into a small dispute that could have large consequences for Edgartown and the Island.